Monday, May 25, 2009

Girl Power!

OK, so we are women, biologically speaking, but deep down inside and while on the bike riding together, we are girls. We have fun, we flirt with boys, we challenge each other, we support each other. Hey, this ain't no feminist rant- this is a ride report for the 7Hills of Kirkland's Century Ride! "The Girls" started out as Becky, Molly (in town for the holiday weekend), Lynn, Emily and me. I last saw any trace of the first three at the first rest stop, waving to Becky as I was waiting in line for the port-a-potties. She was still smiling and I can only guess that she alternated between smile and grimace for the remainder of her ride, with smiling edging out the victor. Let's hope they all did.
As I climbed Winery Hill, always the toughest climb for me, Emily and I chatted about this and that and I wondered if the hillside has sloughed away since the climb didn't seem so bad this year. A great descent followed and we were once again back at the same rest stop when who should appear, but my old ride buddy, Annie. She and I have shared a lot of road miles together, both around the Puget Sound region but also in Spokane and over the North Cascades Hwy. We were a great team. But things change, life gets complicated and the distance between our wheels grows larger. It was great to visit with her and to see her on the bike after so long. And she saved me from a wrong turn later in the ride.
Back on the road, our group was solidifying into a nice foursome of David, Bob A, Emily and me. David made it known that he wasn't feeling so great and I thought he might turn off to cut the ride short but we passed the metric cutoff point and he stayed with us. After the stop in the Snoqualmie Valley, he resigned himself to riding off the back of the pack and on his own. I would hear none of it; if he wasn't interested in actively drafting, then I made a point to ride slower so he had no choice but to draft (insert rear wheel here). David has become quite the strong rider in the past couple of years and, whether it was the box jumps at the gym Friday, the climb up Mt Erie Saturday or the coffee on an empty stomach today, he was now in need of our support and we were there for him. Even Bob A was on board with that train of thought and he regularly waited to make sure we were all together before proceeding. Of course, it was really Emily who was the power behind our foursome, as she spent the most time at the front, pulling the rest of us tirelessly. She wants to become a better, smoother rider who is solid to draft behind so, although I like to see the work of drafting spread out among all riders, I was happy to let Emily work on her skills up front. I was secretly hoping it might tire her out a little bit. OK, so I was being a little catty- MEOW! But Emily is so strong that I thought she might go off the front on a hill and leave us all. Instead, she just continued to pull and I appreciated that greatly.

Along the ride, we were sometimes joined by Bob N, Bruce and Denny. At one point, a fast young woman went blasting by us and soon, Bob N gave chase. Oh, the power of a woman! (in this instance, woman works better than girl- I guess you have to be one to understand) We saw Bob at the next rest stop; no sign of the woman;-( On the home stretch of the ride, everyone seemed to have more energy. David must have been feeling better because we no longer had to keep an eye out for him, he was just right there with us. Until the last hill, that is. I surged ahead as if I were really not tired. That didn't last long, though, and Bob A and Emily came around me. But it was a long hill and so I had time to just sit, spin and slowly catch up toward Emily, taunting her (supportively, of course) to go a little faster. We made it through the light while I saw David and Denny get stuck and a while later Bob A was descending toward us (showoff!) to go check on them.

At the crest of the last hill, I really did have a surge of energy, be it girl power, adrenaline, or just the thought of strawberry shortcake at the finish. I took the lead and the others allowed me to keep it, down 116th, along Northup Way and Lake WA Blvd.  They even followed me down a one-way street going the wrong way with tons of oncoming traffic; now that is devotion to one's leader. And I think only something that a girl on a bicycle can get away with.

For more photos, see here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

COGS & Laughers go to Seabeck

I had been growing tired of the ride leadership gig for a while and had convinced myself to "lead" this ride since Bill P of Laugher fame would also be leading and I could dole out most of the responsibility to him. Well, I arrived at the Fauntleroy Ferry dock under false pretenses; Bill was doped up on some performance-lowering meds (silly man) and was looking to me for leadership and someone had to tell this crowd of brightly colored wheel-powered people where to go. The first step after disembarking the ferry at Southworth was to shed the speed demons. To accomplish this, I dawdled on the first hill and soon the Rabbits charged off the front. I had told Bill that I would set off at a nice, moderate pace so as not to blow him off the back. Well, I guess I lied. I was chasing the Rabbits like a greyhound, ascending, descending, leaning left and right, turning at a high rate of speed. At least I remembered to leave a corner person here and there. I even had the nerve to take the enlarged group down a hidden driveway that Greg Sneed had introduced me to, with gravel spewing, pedestrians cursing, babies crying and cats screeching until we popped out on a quiet lane by the sea. In no time, we were tearing through the farmers market in Port Orchard (more cursing) to the restrooms. Did we arrive with everyone, I wondered? Well, here comes Tom Tanner down the steps from the road and there I see Dan D has straggled in, as well as Big Dan, with a smile on his face. Good enough for me.

Upon leaving, I found myself on the wheel of a fast guy (Peg's friend Bill) and not only was he a fast guy, it turned out, but also a guy unfazed by 60mph traffic whizzing by...on our right. We had merged onto the highway into the left lane and, since we were going to exit left , we stayed there for what ended up being a 1/2 mile. In a car, that's all of 30 seconds but on a bike going 20mph behind a fast guy, well, you do the math; it's too traumatic to actually put it in writing. We made it to the exit with everybody intact, as far as I could tell. Maybe a few frazzled nerves but we cyclists are kind of used to that.

The fast people then looked to me and said, "where to?". Oh no, they need a leader while I all I wanted to do was ride without having to think and now we were getting into some serious hills. I dropped a corner here, regrouped there and it seemed like we were all together. Our Big Guy was hanging on so, with him as my indicator, I continued on. After more climbing came a glorious descent to the Seabeck area and views of water and the Olympic Mountains. We rolled into Seabeck where the pie-eating was already in progress; I learned that this year, even some Rabbits stopped long enough to have pie. They are getting smarter.

Once we were back on the road heading south, it became clear that there were two groups within our large mass. Peg, with cue sheet in pocket, had taken a faster group ahead and that left me with Bill P, Kent, Steve R, Steve H, Emily, Elizabeth, Lloyd and big guy Dan. A few others had actual lives to tend to in the city and took a shortcut back. My group was mostly full of people I had ridden with in the past and the new people were a welcome addition. Through a great twist of COGS/Laugher fate, we ended up with a cheering squad while heading up the steep climb out of Holly. Yes, we basically had a red carpet rolled out for us. Spritzes of rose-scented water, cups of hydrating liquids, the roar of our fans- well, something like that. Soon enough, though, we were on the ridge and looking down to Hood Canal and the Olympics. More climbing, descending and laughing and enjoying were to follow, since there were few cars and the road seemed like it was made for us.

Our bicycling bliss ended as we descended down to the road to Belfair and eventually made it to the Highway of Hell. We took Hwy 3 out of Belfair, up a long hill and to the backroads of Pt Orchard as a way to avoid another leap across three lanes of 60mph traffic. Not bad, but far from bliss as there was a lot of traffic on Lake Flora Rd but the shoulder was gravel. But much better than the suicide ride on the hwy that we made last year. We gathered everyone up before the descent to Port Orchard and pacelined toward Southworth. It was at that point that I realized how tired I was. This was the longest ride of the season so far and with twice as much climbing as my last long ride (see MayDay Metric post). So when Bill's rear tire was looking flat, I rejoiced at the thought of stopping and getting off my bike. Of course, I let him think I was just a caring friend, being supportive of his mechanical needs.

Five of us stopped, the other half continuing toward the ferry. We had chosen a driveway with a lot of grass and an orchard and, as we settled to the task, saw that it came with a dog, too. At first bark, the dog seemed defensive but I could see he was wagging his tail and knew he was happy to see us. He came in close range, then pulled away and returned with a ball. We all had our jobs: Bill and Kent went about fixing the flat, Steve R snoozed, Elizabeth stretched and I played fetch with our new friend. We were sorry to leave when the time came but we eventually headed back to the ferry where we had missed the boat and had 1.5 hours until the next one. While normally I like to have a juicy steak after a ride like that one, my choices were limited to the corner store and so I suddenly became a calorie-craved, non-discerning eater of interesting combinations. Chocolate milk and beef jerky? Sounds good. Strawberry-Banana smoothie with a Snickers bar? Delicious! And don't forget the Oreos; they go with everything. I even saved a few for my ride buddies while we embarked the ferry, crossing the south sound in dwindling light.

Off the ferry, we rejoiced that we had just one last hill to climb before regaining the parking lot and our awaiting cars. A great ride, beautiful day and excellent cycling companions.
For more photos, see here.
And the (corrected) ride route here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

May Day Metric

A bunch of Creepy Old Guys in Spandex were standing around outside Johnny's Grill & Bar in Federal Way. They had bikes and helmets with them and each wore an expectant look on their face. Two women appeared, chatted with the guys and they all left together on their bicycles, heading south. One of the women, the skinny one, stayed out in front of the group, as though she were pulling the rest. Once the group got into some hills, the skinny woman stayed near the front, joined by some of the guys, while most of the rest of the group got more spread out. But eventually, they all came back together, riding nicely in a group.
One of the guys discovered his front tire was leaking air and so at the first rest stop, he remedied this problem while everyone else either sampled the various foods or stood by, watching. The other woman, the one with the jacket, was hesitant to continue on with the group, but she knew one of the guys and he convinced her it would be easy, "just ten more miles to the next rest stop, then we turn back" is what he said. He forgot to mention the headwinds and the flat, open trail that he would drop her on. It sounded as though the guy worked in marketing.
Indeed, they all made it to the next rest stop in a quaint but very quiet town. The town had some interesting elements: a skeletal driver of an old truck, a neat and tidy town hall, a nearby home with a small statue of a pig on its porch and an old train that had been used for transporting coal. From there, the road continued upward and, since the guys and the women were interested in going downward, they made that stop their halfway point.
Soon, they were on the flat trail with the headwind and they all rode nicely in a line, gaining the advantage of each being behind another, with the first in line setting the pace. The first guy in line was training to climb Mt Rainier so the group was doing their best to help him in his training. The trail continued, past intersections, over train tracks and around bends, until the trail became flat and straight, forging on across the prairies. One of the women, the skinny one, got tired of this monotony and dropped back in the line. Soon, the other woman, the one with the jacket, also became mentally fatigued and dropped back as well. They waved to the guys in the distance (with all their fingers, of course, these were nice women) and succumbed to the wind.
At the end of the trail, the guys were waiting and, as the women caught up, the one in the jacket remarked that dropping women was why most of the guys were single. One of the guys nodded in agreement and he stayed with the women for the next stretch through a flat industrial park. At the end of the flats, just before turning off to face what was known as "Phil's Hill", the guy who was friends with the woman in the jacket urged the woman to go with him on an easier route, rather than face the impending climb. For reasons unknown, and although the woman had been left behind by the guy once already, she chose to go with him on his shortcut.
The rest carried on up the hill, with the skinny woman regaining her place toward the front of the group, as they climbed up the switchbacks. The climb was on a one-way road, ascending via short switchbacks and providing views into the foothills and beyond. It was reminiscent of climbs in France- no cars, just steep enough to be a challenge but still fun, surounded by greenery and with signs marking each quarter section of the hill, with some inspirational markings on the surface of the road. Allez! Allez!
The whole group, minus the woman in the jacket and the guy who talked her into another route, summited the climb, all in agreement that it had been the favorite part of the day and headed on. The route included another section of trail, though this one was hilly, more roads and, finally, the sidewalk finale. The smart guy and the skinny woman began to chat about the reward that lay at the finish and wondered what flavor choices they would have. Once back at the bar, the place where it all began, the skinny woman made her way directly to the table, chose the apple flavor and began the new task of eating. The guys, including the one who led the woman astray and the woman with the jacket slowly made their way to the bar as well, claiming their rewards. The whole group was back together again.
The slogan for the ride was "Ride More & Worry Less!" but the crowd at the bar thought it would be more fitting to Ride More & Eat More Pie!
And, don't forget, if you like women (and want them to like you), don't drop them.

For more photos from the ride, go here.